You Can’t Blame Apathy

Voter turnout in Wisconsin was extremely high yesterday. Some precincts saw turnout as high as 80 percent while others saw turnout above 110 percent. The surge in same-day registrations lead to some precincts actually running out of voter registration materials. And based on my own anecdotes, I would call that unprecedented turnout, because in my former home of Kentucky voter turnout of 30 percent would be a fever pitch, turnout of 17 percent would be the norm, and turnout below 10 percent wouldn't be unheard of.

You can't blame apathy for yesterday's loss, but you can blame ineffective messaging and, as Bob puts it, being "out hustled."

39 percent of self-identified union members voted for Governor Scott Walker yesterday. The man who infamously told his billionaire donors he was going to "divide and conquer" the citizenry weeks before taking a months-long piss on public unions. And you know what? It worked. By singling out public unions instead of all unions, he successfully pitted one group of workers against the other.

You may assume that all unionized voters are a monolith and that they would naturally band together when one or the other is under assault, and I suspect Democratic messaging in part relies on that being the case, but that's not the world we live in. And I can tell you based on my own experience with members of my extended family, who are members of private employee unions in Wisconsin who supported Scott Walker, that they aren't.

From their ill-informed perspective, public employees are spoiled. And if that sounds familiar, that's because it's the same message repeated, Ad nauseam, since the 1980s. It's not something they heard on Fox News. They don't watch Fox News. It's something that is now deeply entrenched in the public mind, and we aren't going to change that by assuming they know better. We have to convince voters that we have their best interests at heart. Because no matter how terrible the GOP becomes or how much damage they do to society, their bottomless piles of cash and an irresponsible 4th estate shrouds their culpability.

It wasn't all bad news in Wisconsin last night. Former Racine Senator John Lehman successfully defeated Republican incumbent Van Wanggaard, who took Lehmans job during the Tea Party flood of 2010. This victory will restore a Democratic majority to the Wisconsin state senate. And while that's not the governorship, it is the next best thing. A Democratic majority in the state senate will prevent Scott Walker and his loyal henchmen from ramrodding nefarious legislation without concession.

The other good news is that Scott Walker seems destined to receive the Blagojevich treatment in the not-too-distant future, and this time next year we may very well be discussing Governor Kleefisch, who is currently serving as Lieutenant Governor.

The really bad news is not that Democrats were unsuccessful in recalling Governor Walker, it's that Wisconsin still has the worst record of job creation in the nation right now. The really bad news is that the state cut nearly a billion dollars from education, over a billion from Medicaid, and passed new corporate tax-cuts that have done nothing to either solve the state's budget holes or create jobs. That's the real tragedy in Wisconsin, and we can't let one defeat cause us to lose sight of what it is we're fighting.

  • mhr52

    Public employees are spoiled rotten. Whether its platinum healthcare here or 13 monthly pension payments in Greece. Bureaucrats are using their own money, so government unions can run wild and guess who foots the bill: us.

  • There could be a bright side here – a false sense of security to the right. The Dems in Wisconsin blew this thing, but nationally the GOP is looking at it as the ball being in their court. That could play out well come November.

  • mnpollio

    I have to admit that I was not remotely surprised by this. As my grandmother used to say, “No one ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American people!” This should not have even been a close contest and Walker should have been run out of Wisconsin on a battering ram. Yet somehow he squeaked right back into office. One cannot underestimate the bad news this bodes for the future of the country at large from this development. And let’s be honest, if Walker had lost we would all be screaming its significance from the rafters, so let’s not try to act like his win (not matter how close) is not indicative of something major.

    1. It confirms firmly the truth of the rule that the candidate that lavishes the most money on their campaign will manage to buy their way into office, since Walker was able to outspend his competition significantly.

    2. It confirms that the DNC is utterly incompetent. The grass roots associations responsible for getting out the vote and getting this recall going were practically begging the DNC to become more actively involved right up until voting day and begging them to throw some money and momentum behind it. And all they got was the sound of crickets. This demonstrates that either the DNC does not care about the unions being victimized by Walker or is still hoping that by not actively taking on the Koch Brothers and their horde that some of that money and support will somehow come their way by rolling over for them. Fat chance on that, DNC!

    3. It confirms that no matter how outrageous the offenses against people, they cannot overcome their ingrained practice of voting Republican no matter what. Walker should have been immediately fired simply for when he publicly acknowledged that he was fomenting plans to seed agitators amongst the demonstrators to cause problems that he could then blame on the protestors. Yet here he is elected again back into office. No one can talk any kind of sense to people who are slaves to ideology like this. Walker could not have been any more of a straightforward villain than if he had renamed himself Goldfinger. Who is the next nominee for the Republican Party in Wisconsin, Dr. No?

    This was a disastrous turn for Wisconsin and the country at large, because this only galvanizes and unites the GOP and their rabid supporters into thinking the country is on its side and wants their nightmare agenda ASAP. And no one on the other side of the aisle seems able to figure out how to combat this menace because everyone is always so damned worried about offending the billionaires since their money sways the vote.

    In short, as depressed as it makes me, I think it is time to admit that we’re screwed, the country is screwed, and until a chunk of the GOP either gets tired of screwing the country or comes to their senses, nothing is going to change, much less improve. Now, I need a stiff drink.

  • “Public employees are spoiled” is so deeply ingrained in the American consciousness that I don’t think we’ll ever be rid of it. I’m a public employee and I’ve got friends who have told me, to my face, that I don’t deserve the pension I’ve been paying into for 25 years. And these are my *friends*.

    • mnpollio

      Then I suggest you rethink their status as friends, because friends would not talk to each in such a way.

  • I am not shocked that private unions did not step up for public unions. Its not like public employee unions have been all that great supporting their private brothers and sisters in industry all these years. I think of the teacher’s parking lot full of Toyotas and Honda. Here in Michigan, the former head of UAW 6000, who represents state workers drove a BMW. UAW!? In Michigan no less.

  • Really nice piece, Ashby. Well done.

  • MrDHalen

    Nice write up Ashby.

    I am still up to do my part in pushing the progressive way for America, but I have no illusions of why we are losing some of these battles.

    Republicans win on messaging because there is no substance or truth to their policies. That’s why Democrats lose on messaging, because we are really working to resolve complex social issues for a massive and complex country. A lot of American citizens don’t want to deal with maintaining their nation anymore. The reasons vary from racism to pure greed, but the impact is what we see now.

    My greatest disappointment about becoming an adult and seeing other adults was realizing that it doesn’t guarantee intelligence. I am unable to live my life with the cognitive dissonance that so many others are happy with.

    The progressive message is out there in simple and complex explanations, but it requires people to want that way of life. Right now, the GOP’s selfish, greedy, me, myself, and I society is what a lot of people want; and they’ll gladly tell us where to go if we want something else.

    I never fully give up on my bag of optimism, but it’s the size of a little coin purse right now that I keep at home tucked under my mattress.

  • I said last night that Wisconsin is what happens when outrage doesn’t translate into power.

  • turnout above 110 percent


    • JackDaniel07

      fuzzy maff

  • Miranda

    And I can tell you based on my own experience with members of my extended family, who are members of private employee unions in Wisconsin who supported Scott Walker, that they aren’t.

    *sigh*…..do you respect those family members? I’m asking in all seriousness, because I honestly could not even break bread with family members that thought this way. I really couldn’t.

    • JMAshby

      Yes. They are victims of misinformation, and we won’t change anyone’s minds by refusing to talk.

      And evidently, its a big problem. With 39% of union members voting Walker, we can’t just ignore them or pretend they don’t exist.

      • Well, I hope that when the Walkers of the world start coming to bust up private unions too we all tell that 39%… I f*cking told you so.

      • mrbrink

        I was in the IAM for about 5 years. Union members voting Republican is little more than white culture and heritage protectionism christened with a beer fart.

        They’re so fucking ridiculous in their lunch room pomposity and their shallowness of self-important “principles” of fuck all lingering dislike of Jesse Jackson’s attitude, they don’t bother at all to stop and think about how they’re selling out the country to The International Union of Corporations, or the Corporate Union Network Task Syndicate, or C.U.N.T.S International– which are doing much better over the past 30 years by systematically destroying their ever-diminishing rights and economic protections that the American labor unions and the spirit thereof have fought for since the Boston Massacre. Wages, job and retirement security, access to credit, leisurely time– *happiness* — all going away more rapidly in recent years thanks to the 38%ers who are voting in favor of right wing republicans marching lock step across the country fermenting policies of divide and conquer.

        Falling over for “Southern Strategy North.”

        Obviously dividing and conquering 62% against 38% of union members in Wisconsin bears rotten fruit. So I’m not going to bridge that divide today because today– you stupid fucking assholes with your fastidiously warped minds– today, you are all fresh faced shit eaters.

        The history of labor relations in this country started from a position of slavery, for fuck’s sake. This is America’s legacy from which organized labor was born and today struggles to retain even the public appearance of a right to collectively bargain for their blood and sweat. We know you’re always getting your asses fucked by the owners, labor unions, but we’re tired of you telling us to pay our dues, so just go away. Better to pay the dues to The Right wing Billionaire Boy’s Club who are running out of teachers and postal workers to use as a social distraction for their record profits and Xanadu political power.

        It should concern anti-union union members that Corporations are dues paying members of Unionized Capital going by the names of The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or the American Legislative Exchange Council. The Kochs, Grover Norquist, and Karl Rove are the union bosses of organized capital and you pay your dues to them, now.

        • JMAshby

          I don’t disagree, but I also don’t think telling them to go fuck themselves will win their votes.

          Ironic that the best hope for the nation is probably the rising minority population, which is why minorities scare the GOP so much.

          • mrbrink

            I’m not telling them to go fuck themselves. I’m berating them for selling out their neighbors.

          • mrbrink

            By the way, just in case, maybe you should be the one to speak to the crazy 38’s. I may not make any progress with my approach.

          • “…you are all fresh faced shit eaters.”

            LOL Did you read the post on my blog today because that statement totally mirrored my thoughts on the matter? I think the Wisconsin voters, particularly that 38%, ate some sugar coated shit and have yet to realize it. And even when they do, they’ll be in complete denial of how they screwed over their neighbors. To say I am pissed about it is an understatement. So, I don’t think I would make any headway either!

        • MrDHalen

          That first paragraph, AWESOME!!!

          I have yet to meet someone who bashes unions who can explain how you stop corporations from abusing workers. Who protects the workers once the unions are gone??? They have no answer; just a blank stare!!!

      • mnpollio

        Unfortunately, you won’t change any of their minds BY talking either. I have rabid Republican cousins that are just like this. Facts will not alter their minds nor will appeals to their empathy, as they have none. The only time I ever saw a change in their views was regarding unemployment. They raged against unemployment benefits until their darling investment broker son was canned and could not find appropriate work for over a year. Then suddenly unemployment was a deserved necessity that people paid into. Then when he found work again, unemployment was back to being a crutch for lazy ingrates. People like this have no soul. Once you realize that, the only way to co-exist on holidays or at meals is to ban talk of politics. They simply will not change their minds or own up to a misjudgment because they don’t believe they are capable of making misjudgments.